Having moved to Nashville, Tennessee, a few years ago, I’ve been learning all there is about Music City to find out how things work here, and how a newcomer like me fits in. Nashville has everything a creative professional could want—world-class music, food, festivals, shopping and more. Here are 10 tips I’ve uncovered so far in my new home, and there’s so much more left to be explored!
1. Don’t go in guns blazing. Be humble. Listen to others. Don’t brag, and let your work speak for itself.
2. Pay your dues. OK, so you may have already paid your dues ten-fold elsewhere, but here in Music City, you’ll have to prove yourself all over again. Be true to your art 110%, and you’ll eventually earn some respect from somebody.
3. Appreciate music in Music City. If you live here and don’t attend and support live shows, you’re missing out. Simple as that. And if you’re in a band and don’t see local shows, forget getting your foot in the door. (Hanging around the tourists on Broadway doesn’t count.) Venture forth into the city and check out the country music dive bars or rock bars (like the Exit/In) to hear some of the best music from local bands and national touring acts that you’ll ever hear in your life.
4. Shop local. Nashville is full of hidden gems—shops and boutiques run by locals selling their handmade wares. Instead of shopping for gifts like jewelry or household items at a big box store, try browsing the aisles of a small business. East Nashville’s East Side Story, for instance, is a cute little bookstore dedicated to only selling books by local authors—a rare treat indeed!
5. Sample the food. If you stick to only scouring the tourist traps in town, you’ll never find the true delicacies Music City has to offer. For a list of some great independent restaurants, check out Nashville Originals, which hosts an annual Restaurant Week featuring discounted gourmet meals for two. Also be sure to read The Tennessean for new restaurant listings and coupons, such as from Tenn Sixteen Food & Drink Co., a restaurant that just opened last year, featuring Cajun-accented Southern comfort food.
6. Volunteer. You live in the “Volunteer State” now, so get out there, get your hands dirty and do some good for your community! Don’t know where to start? Get a referral from the United Way or offer a few hours of your time with Second Harvest Food Bank, which helps feed the hungry of Middle Tennessee.
7. Dress for the occasion. You never know who is going to be somewhere. If you’re heading out to the Franklin Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning, don’t settle for throwing on your jogging shoes and sweats. Make some effort to look nice, and that once-in-a-lifetime moment when you run into Hayden Panettiere at The Patterson House, you won’t feel like such a slob.
8. Read the news. Nashville is a journalist’s dream come true. Here, you can find high-quality magazines such as Nfocus or Native for free on newspaper stands, the alternative newsweekly Nashville Scene, as well as arts and entertainment staples such as Nashville Lifestyles and American Songwriter. Whether you read for pleasure or to stay informed, read to make sure you don’t miss out!
9. Try new things. Now that you’re in a new place, it’s time to expand your palate and your palette! Whether trying new Southern-inspired foods (such as the shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles at Tenn 16, or the world-famous biscuits at The Loveless Café), or you’re trying out new music (by collecting vinyl LPs from Grimey’s or The Groove local record shops, or by listening to music genres you’ve never been exposed to before, such as bluegrass or electronica), stretch your wings at every chance you get!
10. Become a Nashvillian. Go out. Observe people, and do what the Nashvillians do. Make friends. Have a barbeque, and invite your new friends over. Or, if you’re as shy as me, join a club (anything non-creepy on Meetup.com, search the Nashville-related groups on Facebook or Twitter—heck, there’s even a Steampunk Nashville scene, or do it the old fashioned way by looking at flyers on coffee shop bulletin boards to find out what groups/clubs are out there and when they have meetings), to find likeminded people. Then introduce yourself, be polite, listen, share, and enjoy a conversation. Once you’ve picked a joint, showed up somewhat consistently and become a “regular,” you’ll find yourself a new groups of friends in no time at all! Good luck, and welcome to Nashville!